There must have been an extra reel of tape lying around after Thee Oh Sees wrapped recording for Castlemania, which dropped in May. Carrion Crawler/The Dream comes out of the gate six months later and is a somewhat different record. Gone are the Kinks-ian pop whimsies of Castlemania replaced by driven, explosive drones and jams more in keeping with last year’s Warm Slime. The track length has also shot up, with near half the songs over five minutes or more. Here Thee Oh Sees embraces the raw sounds of ’60s garage at the band’s core and feeds it steroids by the bucket.
The green guy on the album cover is the result. The band hasn’t seemed to have attached much meaning to its cover art before; for the album Help, frontman John Dwyer, according to an interview with REAX, told the artist vaguely he wanted a rainbow in there. For Carrion, there’s this zombie-looking dude surrounded by gray matter (in this instance pink matter). The wiry-framed corpse has a serrated sword slung on his back, and it’s just a hunch, but it may represent the album’s sound, one that will cut open your brain. All of the songs have strong bass and drum lines that give Dwyer full reign to exhibit his Dick-Dale-on-acid guitar playing. Twangy garage and surf notes growl from Dwyer’s axe and lead a furious charge in tracks like “Contraption/Soul Desert,” a fueled, guttural jam that belongs on every roadhouse jukebox. Drums can’t escape mention for their steady, splashy stream of energy that’s half the fun of listening. In crafting infectious loops and jams, Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees are unmatched.
Dwyer’s singing on this go around is minimalist. When you can hear him, he sounds like a cross between Fred Schneider from the B-52s and the Cramps’ Lux Interior. Dwyer this time uses his vocals like he would any other instrument; rarely does he bring out his throaty croak to sing distinctly. On “Wrong Idea,” it’s a challenge to keep from howling along with him as the song rumbles forth in a high-tempo trash-can stomp. The keys and tambourine player Brigid Dawson supplies sharp backing vocals that sound like little breaths; she adds a needed harmony to verses. Hers is a light touch amidst a flurry of punches.
Thee Oh Sees live is the best thing to ever happen to an audience. It’s a loud, boisterous, crazy show. Carrion Crawler/The Dream could very well be born from a desire to please crowds as easily as it could be Dwyer wanting to craft jams as musical meditation. Whatever the case, the latest of Thee Oh Sees’ productivity will bury you beneath its grooves.